HomeTelevisionThe Peripheral: Patience is Rewarded With the Latest Amazon Sci-Fi Series 

The Peripheral: Patience is Rewarded With the Latest Amazon Sci-Fi Series 

Photo Credit: Amazon Studios

A couple of episodes into the Sci-Fi action-drama The Peripheral, one of the latest original Amazon series, you may find yourself asking: “what in the Matrix, Inception, Westworld, Terminator, Ready Player One hell is going on in this show?” If the plot itself isn’t disorienting enough, the episodes are flush with flashbacks, constant new character introductions, and southern accents that are either absurd or brilliant. It’s tough to discern anything definitive about the series, yet it remains entertaining enough to keep you watching, hoping that amidst the chaos of the futuristic action (and pronunciations), the plot points will come together enough to make sense of it all. 

Rest assured, questions are answered and there is some real brilliance in how things are connected, but you’ll have to hold out until around Episode 5, “What About Bob?” to really feel like you have a handle on it. Based on the novel by William Gibson, and adapted to the screen by Scott B. Smith, the series may seem like it has enough to enamor its audience and string them along to that point. For the most part, that’s true. 

Chloë Grace Moretz and Jack Reynor are a fun pairing as sister and brother, Flynne and Burton Fisher. At least in the early episodes, the most enjoyable bits are those happening in what is present-day 2032 in the show, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The pair are caring for their ailing mother (Melinda Page Hamilton, Messiah), primarily earning money to pay for the insane cost of medication through playing VR simulation games. While Burton is the one with the avatar and Flynne is reluctant to play, she has an unrivaled gift for the games. It’s that talent that gets them noticed by a secret entity that sends them a futuristic headset under the guise of beta testing for the entity. Unsurprisingly, there are levels to it and not the kind they are used to beating. 

As it turns out, when in the simulation, Flynne’s mind is controlling a physical body to carry out tasks, and, stranger than that, it’s in the future. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the missions she carries out expose her to something she was never meant to see, putting everyone she’s close to at risk in the process. A whole other narrative gradually unfolds that connects Aelita West (Charlotte Riley, Wuthering Heights), the one who sent the headset, to Wilf Netherton (Gary Carr, 21 Bridges), who contacts Flynne from the future to warn her of upcoming attempts on her life. Luckily the only thing equally as impressive as Flynne’s skills in the simulation are Burton’s in real life, and he’s managed to keep everyone alive, at least through episode 6. 

Without dipping too deep into further plot details and spoilers, there are a host of other essential characters with varying motivations to touch on. In their small Appalachian town, there is a criminal outfit led by Corbell Pickett (Louis Herthum, Hacks) that holds all the power, including the prescription drug trade and the brain cancer pills the Fishers need. While he’s clearly the man pulling all the strings in the present, he quickly finds himself to be another puppet for the future. Wilf is employed as a fixer for the charming, but likely untrustworthy Lev Zubov (JJ Field, Captain America: The First Avenger), who needs Flynne to locate Aelita before his rival Cherise (T’Nia Miller, The Haunting of Bly Manor) can. To this point, Cherise, in charge of the Research Institute, appears to be the biggest threat, largely because she and her minion Daniel (David Hoflin, Z: The Beginning of Everything) are desperate to eliminate the Fishers at any cost, hiring hit squads, Corbell, and best of all, Bob (Ned Dennehy, Peaky Blinders). 

Flynne and Burton aren’t without allies of their own. Flynne confides in her best friend Billy Ann (Adelind Horan, The Pioneers) and subtly pines after former love interest Sheriff Tommy Constantine (Alex Hernandez, Mafia III), who’s left in the dark by them but gets violently caught up in it all anyway. Burton also has his team of former military friends, all linked up through something called haptic technology, which allows them to “sync” with each other and be most effective as a combat unit. That unit includes Conner Penske (Eli Goree, Riverdale), a frequently drunk, but always funny, multiple limb amputee, who steals every scene he’s a part of. 

There is a sharp contrast throughout the show, in what almost feels like two different storylines happening in each episode. While Flynne’s events in the present day always seem straightforward – even when she’s in the peripheral body in the future – everything related to Wilf and Aelita is shown in a disorienting manner. We see a lot of flashbacks to different time periods and non-linear storytelling being utilized to create a sense of realization where you can determine the purpose of various events that occurred earlier in the series. 

Those behind this series certainly don’t want to hold your hand through every detail, but there comes a point where they simply must provide necessary exposition. As Wilf and others explain various elements to Flynne, the audience gains the same insight. While they effectively use a series of walk and talks, showcase wonderfully crafted cinematography, and set and costume design, the pacing of the show can, at times, feel uneven when they have to slog through dialogue-heavy explanations. Jokes about accents aside, the dialogue in the series can be a bit dodgy at times, but because there are so many characters involved, they deploy more than a few eccentric personalities and deliveries to differentiate them all. 

While you must navigate the ebbs and flows of the story and be content to be confused for large chunks of time, you’ll still be treated to some big revelations and excellent fight sequences, which are impactful enough to string you along. Those moments, whether in the present or in the future, paired with a talented ensemble cast led by Moretz, serve as breadcrumbs effectively leading you to a complex but compelling tale of technology and how the past and present depend on each other for survival. With two episodes left in this first season, a great deal of the world-building is complete, but The Peripheral keeps you captivated, with a few large questions still looming. 

The Peripheral is streaming on Prime Video.

Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison
Ben Murchison is a regular contributor for TV and Movies. He’s that guy that spends an hour in an IMDb black hole of research about every film and show he watches. Strongly believes Buffy the Vampire Slayer to be the best show to ever exist, and that Peaky Blinders needs more than 6 episodes per series. East Carolina grad, follow on Twitter and IG @bdmurchison.

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